Hey all, sorry I missed the posting for last week. The holidays are typically a busy time for us, so I’m going to try and catch up this weekend.
The portion was Qedhoshim (Lev 19-20), meaning “holy”, and instead of journaling a study like I normally do, I thought I’d go with something else… something that I actually envisioned myself doing at certain points when I first started this blog – that is, letting the Scriptures speak for themselves.
Of course, this could come across as me just phoning it in ( :p ) but I assure you that’s not my intention. From past Torah cycles, I knew that there were certain passages of Scripture that simply and purely delighted me because of how much they resonated with goodness. And I felt that if more Christians read these verses and familiarised themselves with them, they’d be far less likely to write the Old Testament off as irrelevant, or conceive of the law as largely ceremonial/oudated; and if more believers actually applied these verses in their daily lives, Christianity’s credibility would vastly improve in the eyes of non-believers.
So what I’m going to do is present an abridged version of Leviticus 19, highlighting the verses which speak to this area the most. I realise the chapter intersperses ethical and spiritual exhortations so I also want to say that I’m not advocating a pick-and-choose approach to the text here, nor am I implying that the following verses are that much more important than their companions; rather, I want to accentuate them because they’re the ones that shine with the greatest light, like apples of gold in settings of silver – the ones that cause my heart to really swell with awe and worship at the sheer character of the One who gave these laws. These are they:
Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father… I am the Lord your God.
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God.
You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.
You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning. You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Do not prostitute your daughter, to cause her to be a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry, and the land become full of wickedness.
You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord.
And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
As I said, this is not to say that the other verses in this chapter aren’t important – by no means. Obviously things like idolatry, profaning God’s name and using divination etc. are grave issues. And if you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll know that I take the less explicable laws seriously as well, even if I haven’t fully understood their import yet. But verses such as these – they show us that part of God which is easiest to understand, and that’s worth highlighting, and remembering. Exodus 23:1-9 is a companion passage to this:
You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute.
If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.
You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute. Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked. And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous.
Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
These verses show that we don’t just serve a God steeped in the mysteries of holiness, but a God who cares about earthly matters and human relationships; a God who’s concerned with the quality of life of His people, whose laws in this regard govern all facets of society to care for the poor, needy, disabled, immigrant and innocent; a God who demands that we safeguard justice, goodwill, truth, integrity and conscience from the individual to the family, to the courts to the marketplace, to the planted field and the public square.
So without saying much more, I’m going to leave it here and ask, dear reader, that you look over these verses again. Read them. Meditate on them. Soak in how good and right and true they are. Imprint them onto your spirit and consciousness. Live them out in love, joy and belief. Share them with the world as part of God’s gift to humanity. It’s one of the best things we can do to help change the communities we’re living in.